My Daughter Wants Hair Like Elsa: A Black Mom's Approach to Talking Black Hair
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
I know it's been a while since I have written and posted anything on my blog, and I can hear the social media pundits and blogging gurus harking about the need to be consistent and churning out daily posts on your platforms. Though I agree, I have to admit, that method simply doesn't work for me for two main reasons. 1. I am a full time, single mother, with a full time job and barely enough time to eat or sleep and 2. I have to be inspired by a real life event or experience in order to write. I have also come to realize, that these are the stories that resonate with you most, and so I have decided to take some of the pressure off by not writing because I have to, but because I feel inspired or compelled to do so and that time is now.
About 2 weeks ago, my five year old told me that she wants white, long hair like Elsa. Now if you are a mom like me with little girls you can probably relate. My girls are uber obsessed with Frozen, almost as much as us moms are obsessed with the idea of an all expense paid child-free vacation (I just had to throw that one in there). Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching them twirl around the house singing and emulating Elsa and Ana. Watching Frozen II has become a daily routine in my house. I am guessing that my girls relate to their characters because they too are also sisters.
Now when my five year old asked me this question I was a bit taken aback. But why was I? When I actually think about it, things aren't so different now as they were 20 years ago. As I examined my own past I remember watching Ariel and Jasmine and Belle and wanting to have their long, beautiful, flowing hair too. Hair that flowed with their every delicate move. Hair that would make me beautiful like them. So, I imagined myself with a bouncing ponytail and long flowing waves. I couldn't wait to relax my hair. Finally I turned 12 and the big day arrived. I remember feeling so excited. The process wasn't pretty but I was happy with the results. The euphoria didn't last however. About a month or so in, I realized I would never have the hair that I had dreamed of and so as time went on I battled with my hair, combing through black magazines looking for hairstyles I could copy. I eventually resorted to wigs, weaves and extensions ( which in most cases gave me the Caucasian look I was going for) until my over processed tresses became a thin, listless mess desperately crying for help.
It was after having my first daughter that I decided to do the "big chop". I was in a transition phase after deciding to stay away from chemicals during my pregnancy and decided it was now or never. I was tired of fighting with my natural course texture at the roots and the frayed relaxed texture on the ends. It was all too much and with a newborn I needed my life to get simpler. It's been over five years since I have been natural and I don't ever intend on going back. Now mind you this doesn't mean that I no longer wear my wigs, weaves and extensions. The difference this time however, is that they are no longer a go-to quick fix that I opt for out of frustration. Now it's a choice and most times I do it to give my own natural tresses a much needed break.
I know you must be wondering what I must have said to my daughter after she posed the request to me. Moms, here is where I kept it real with her. One of the things I have learned about these kids is how smart they are and that they are way more understanding than we may assume. So I told her, that she would never have hair like Elsa. I told her that different types of people make up the world. That though we are all beautiful we carry different characteristics. I told her that she is a black girl and that most black girls have curly hair like her own and like mommy (when she is not wearing her wig of course). I told her that her hair is just as beautiful as Elsa's and that she should be proud of it because it makes her unique. Later that day she left for the hair stylist and returned home with her hair beautifully braided and exclaimed to my utter delight, " Mommy! Look at my pretty hair!". Nothing could have made me happier. (See photos)
Knowing the hangups I had with my own hair made me realize that as a modern day black mom, I needed to shatter those stereotypes early on for my daughter. I don't want it to take her 20 years to learn to accept and embrace her hair as her beauty like I did. Luckily, today, natural hair isn't so taboo anymore and finally we understand our own hair and how to care for it. Companies are now catering to the special needs of our hair and making products just for us. In my opinion, there is really no reason why a black woman shouldn't embrace her hair. Our hair is our identity and a distinguishing factor of our race. Whether worn in an afro, or locs, or twisted or cornrowed, it is all beautiful and we need to ensure that our daughters know that from an early age.
Although hair companies have come a long way, there is still much room for improvement from these media and production companies who write and create these amazing stories that we all grow to love. They should to do more to ensure that characters that look like us are a part of their stories too. That way, black children especially our little girls are not growing up wanting to be and look like characters that they could never be. By making the programs our children watch more inclusive we can lessen the negative impact it can have on their identity and sense of self.
Today, as Black History Month comes to an end, I hope you consider the importance of empowering our little girls. Having open and honest conversations with them so that their perceptions are not led by someone else's biases and stereotypes is key to setting a foundation built on truth that uplifts rather than belittles. I implore you as moms to let your little girls know that no matter the texture of her hair, she is beautiful, and that beauty also comes from within and that kindness, selflessness, grace, smarts and the like are also characteristics that make someone beautiful.
Do you have any interesting hair stories of your own? How have you chosen to discuss controversial topics like race with your children? I'd like to hear from you!